The town of Pixley, Georgia had died by degrees. It was the Eisenhower Highway system that had spelled the doom for the once bustling town. The gas station had attended Model T's and Cadillac touring cars on their final fill-up before reaching Macon to the south. Now the highway that had ran through the center of town, past the Woolworth's with it's boarded up windows, next to Snookie's Bar and Grill and Pool Hall (Snookie retiring to Florida claiming that serving only three town drunks each night couldn't pay the lights) and the still open Rexall Drug store was deserted and quiet. One stop light routinely blinked through its cycle of red yellow green. The townsfolk had left but, the neighboring farm families still needed a place to buy pills and potions. The true end to Pixley came when the IGA market closed it's doors after a two week 1/2 off sale. Towards the end, anything left on the shelves was discounted to sell. Earl didn't mind that the town had died. He sort of liked the peace and quiet for a change. About the only work he had to do was play checkers with Boggs and fix an occasional flat tire for the tourists sailing down the Interstate Highway four miles away. The occasional fan belt, anti-freeze boil-over or anything requiring a tow was kept in the old tow truck. Earl didn't need the money. His daddy had owned the gas station and now it was his. He hardly spent a dime except on food and a fifth of Jack once a week. He wasn't a rich man but, he had money put away. It was just better sitting about all day playing checkers. A fly buzzed by and then hit the oil stained window with a thud.
"Are you going to make a move before I keel over and die?"
"Oh shush. I'll move when I get done studying the board."
"Study the board..poosh! You been studying that board for two hours, you senile old coot."
"Taint true. I was sleeping. Waiting for your move."
"You gettin' grumpier every day, old man."
The gnarled finger slid a checker to a new square. He instantly regretted it when he saw Earl leap in and close him off. He had no other move but to sacrifice two of his checkers to the evilly grinning Earl.
"And you still can't play checkers worth a horse's pa-toot." The dust was dancing through the hand wave as the older Boggs conceded defeat and closed his eyes. The afternoon was hot and muggy. His chin hit his chest. Just as well, Earl thought. He'd been meaning to go sweep up the garage. It was actually cooler than inside the office. The double garage doors had been rolled up and the hot dusty smell of asphalt and road grime had cleared out. Now only the permeated motor oil smell of thousands of oil changes was left. Motor oil and gasoline, he loved the smell of both.
A flash of light erupted from the office. It was brighter than day light for a moment and then something went pop, and a cat ran out of the office. Its orange fur was standing on end as he flew past his feet and headed for the field where several old cars sat rusting away.
"What the hell?" He ran to the office door. Boggs was sitting straight up in his chair holding a gold cigar box. It was ornately carved and scrolled.
"It just appeared right out of thin air right on the checkerboard. I swear! Like magic."
"What's in it?" Boggs lifted the lid. Inside were neatly wrapped cigars. They bore a London cigar shop ring.
"Well, I guess that's what you'd find in a cigar box. I got no idea who's it is."
"Let me see it, you're blind as a bat, old man." The elderly man held the box out to Earl. It felt heavy, the gold was real and thick enough to add enough weight to impress. It was a gentleman's box. HGW was ornately scribed into the gold in the center of the box. Outside, a streak of orange darted around the corner, preferring the sight of humans to the the strange wreckage of the weed grown field. She found a corner and huddled for safety.
"And where did the cat come from?"
"Beats me. Like I said. I saw it appear right out of thin air. Right there!" The old gnarled finger pointed at the checkerboard that had sat on the up-turned waste can for years. The old man might have been getting senile but, he was never a liar.
"The cat too?"
"No, just the box. I don't know where the damn cat came from. She's probably just a stray someone threw out on the highway." The old man scratched the mosquito bite on his head. "I swear....right out of thin air."
Outside, another flash of light happened. A strange looking vehicle appeared out of thin air. A man stepped out. He was dressed like a dandy. He spoke with an English accent.
"I say, dear man, it looks like you found my cigar box. Herbert G. Wells, those would be my initials on the box. And,dear friend, would you have happened to have seen an orange cat?"